HELL AND GONE is insane. Its author, Duane Swierczynski, is not, but rather a very talented guy who has written several comic titles for the Marvel Entertainment Group. He has also penned a number of thrillers, including FUN AND GAMES, the first installment in the Charlie Hardie series, of which HELL AND GONE is the second.
"If you ever read a comic book story arc, or religiously watched 'Breaking Bad,' '24' or 'Lost,' you have to read FUN AND GAMES, HELL AND GONE and, when it’s published in 2012, POINT AND SHOOT."
Hardie is an ex-cop who had been keeping body and soul together as a high-end housesitter. He is quite good at what he does, and is possessed of a skill set that makes him a very capable and dangerous guy. His problem is that he has run afoul of a powerful and seemingly omnipotent organization known as the Accident People, so that by the conclusion of FUN AND GAMES, Charlie was in custody for murdering an actress he was attempting to protect and grievously wounded. Things get worse in HELL AND GONE.
Even telling you a little about the book is telling you a lot, but I will tell you as much as I can without spoiling this crazy, upside-down story. Charlie finds himself in a hospital, is abducted by the Accident People, and spends some time with another doctor who apparently missed the “do no harm” part of the Hippocratic Oath. After an initially undetermined amount of time, Charlie regains consciousness in a prison. And it’s not just any prison. Charlie has no idea where he is, or who is running things, or even why he is there. All that he knows is what he is told: he is the new warden. He supervises a few guards who in turn supervise some very dangerous, very violent prisoners under conditions that are horrendous for both the supervisors and the supervised.
Charlie undergoes a series of tests, some of which he passes, others of which he does not. Actually, the deck is stacked against him and everyone else in the prison, including a woman who knows who he is, even though he has never seen her before. The food is awful, the temperature is too cold, and the showers look like they haven’t been cleaned since…well, ever. And Charlie is told there is no way out. But he figures that if there is a way in, there is a way out. His plan is to find that way out, escape, figure out where he is, discover who did this to him, and exact revenge. Of course, the Accident People are holding Charlie’s family over him like the sword of Damocles, but Charlie has that covered. At least he thinks he does. He puts his plan in motion and carries it out. Well, some of it.
If you ever read a comic book story arc, or religiously watched “Breaking Bad,” “24” or “Lost,” you have to read FUN AND GAMES, HELL AND GONE and, when it’s published in 2012, POINT AND SHOOT. The plot of the trilogy reads like it was created by Franz Kafka and Philip K. Dick after a night of drinking boilermakers. And it reads like it was written by Duane Swierczynski, who will keep you up all night long, reading and wondering just what will happen next and make you sorry when you find out.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 3, 2011